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Page 148


On October 6, 1865, Tennyson, as his wife records, had begun composing "his new poem of 'Lucretius.'"[4] By the end of 1867, he had brought it close to its final form—the first major work that he had completed in the three and a half years since the publication of the Enoch Arden volume in July, 1864. Throughout his literary career he had always been chary of publishing in annuals and periodicals, and he usually did so only after being importuned. In the first part of 1868, however, "feeling uneasy," according to Sir Charles Tennyson, "at his long lack of contact with the public, and not yet ready with enough poems for a new volume," he published (against his wife's judgment), besides "Lucretius," four poems in journals—"The Victim" in Good Words (January), "On a Spiteful Letter" in Once a Week (January), "Wages" in Macmillan's (February), and "1865-1866" in Good Words (March).[5] The immediate prospect of building a house in Surrey, near Haslemere, as a summer retreat from Farringford, may also have made additional income appealing; and the periodicals paid him handsomely.[6]

There can be no doubt of the urging of publishers and editors. Grove, who for some years had been on cordial terms with the Tennysons,[7] had apparently in the latter part of 1867 solicited a poem from the Laureate and was piqued that Alexander Strahan and the Reverend


Page 149
Norman Macleod, the publisher and the editor respectively of Good Words, had successfully anticipated him, for on December 23 he informed Macmillan,
I have got a little poem from A. T.—at last Mrs. Tennyson sent it today for the January No. with an injunction that if too late I was to send it back and I should have it again—This of course I have done. 2 verses very pretty and strong. a sort of pendant to the Will. ("O well for him") ["Wages"] It came very nicely and gratefully on my disappointment about Good Words (Add. MSS. 54793, fols. 17-17v).[8]
Macmillan replied the next day, "I am so glad about Tennyson. But for any sake secure them for February" (Add. MSS. 55387(2), fol. 804). An advertisement of the January number of Good Words spurred Grove to write again on Saturday, December 28, "A. T. is making himself very common: I notice a poem announced by him for Good Words. We will talk about it on Monday and see if it will be worth while for me to run down to Farringford" (Add. MSS. 54793, fol. 19). They decided that he should go, and from his residence in Lower Sydenham, he notified Macmillan on January 1, 1868, "The Tennysons will be very glad to have me . . . ." He would have set out for the Isle of Wight that morning; but the day was bitter cold, and he was "pinned—fairly floored" with lumbago (Add. MSS. 54793, fol. 23). He contrived to reach Farringford the next day, on Thursday, January 2, stayed over Friday, and returned on Saturday with Tennyson's commitment not only for "Wages" but for "Lucretius." A letter to his brother-in-law, George Granville Bradley, expresses his satisfaction:
A. T. was very charming. . . . He has been pleased to promise me Lucretius for Macmillan. The subject is not pleasant, but it is a grand poem; one of the grandest of all his works. . . . Also I hope that you will see in our February number a poem by him called Wages, more characteristic and more lofty (though shorter) than either of those in Good Words or Once a Week (Graves, Grove, pp. 155-156 [Jan. 8, 1868]).
Macmillan wrote Tennyson promptly and cordially on Monday, January 6, confirming Grove's arrangements:


Page 150

It is a great pleasure to me to learn from Grove that you are going to give us that great poem about Lucretius of which I have heard rumours so long, and also the little poem Wages which Grove, a good judge thinks so highly of. I gladly assent to the terms you and he arranged: namely £50 for the shorter & £300 for the longer.

Whether anything can be arranged to stop the piracy of the papers. I do not know whether it will be possible to hinder the little one. But I will try the big one.

Can I arrange with Ticknor and Fields about the Lucretius? I have no sort of objection to your getting as much as you can from them, provided they dont anticipate us (Add. MSS. 55387(2), fol. 848).[9]

Tennyson, recognizing that the style and subject matter of "Lucretius" might be too unconventional for the proprietor of a leading magazine to accept, replied on Wednesday, in a previously unpublished letter, now in the library of Yale University:

Farringford, Freshwater, Isle of Wight.
Jany 8lh 1868
My dear Mr Macmillan

Many thanks for yours perhaps I may be able to add another little poem to "Wages"—can't say: but I leave you free to reject Lucr. after you have seen it if you don't like it

Ever yours in great haste
A Tennyson

On January 11, Macmillan gratefully acknowledged receipt of the manuscript of "Wages" and commended its "very noble and true idea fitly expressed," though he ventured to wish that another stanza "could have been added" and, in the second line of the poem, preferred the first reading to its emended wording ("Paid with a voice flying by to be lost in an endless sea"). The expression "flying by" struck his ear as "too light a sound in the middle of a line" (Add. MSS. 55387(2), fol. 875).[10] On the same date, declaring that the poem "really is very fine," he passed the MS to Grove, who responded the next day, ". . . there is enough in these 10 lines for a whole No. . . . I have sent the Poem to Clay [Richard Clay, Macmillan's printer] . . ." (Add. MSS. 55387(2), fol. 875, and 54793, fols. 40-40v).

By Tuesday, January 14, Macmillan or Grove had received a subsequent letter from the poet containing the additional short poem that he had mentioned previously but also conveying the ominous likelihood that he could not let them have "Lucretius." This undated letter (presumably written on January 12 or 13), now in the Tennyson Research Centre, Lincoln, and here first published, reads as follows:


Page 151
My dear Grove, or Macmillan

God spake out of the skies
To a good man & a wise,
"The world & all within it
Will only last a minute."
Then a beggar began to cry
"I must eat, or I must die"
"Is it worth his while to eat,
Or mine to give him meat?"
And the world & all within it
Were nothing the next minute.
This is the first poem which if you like it you may put in before "Wages" Of course I want nothing more in the way of money. But with respect to the Lucretius I am staggered by what I hear from good authority. That if I publish in a serial I virtually give up my copyright & any one has a right to republish me. Really if this be so I must decline giving it to your Magazine however unwillingly
Believe me, respected friends,
Your's ever
A Tennyson
If you prefer the first reading in Wages pray ['you' deleted] keep it.[11]

Macmillan consulted his lawyer, John Hopgood, forthwith and assured Grove on January 14 of the solicitor's having

no doubt that we have a perfect right to prevent the Journals from copying the poem entire, and I will do it. In the meantime he will look into the legal question carefully and if needful get counsels opinion. I shall have his written opinion tomorrow. It is only a bad custom, in no sense a right that has led to this sort of elaborate plundery (Add. MSS. 55387(2), fol. 884).
The publisher was evidently so confident of allaying Tennyson's fears that he promised in a letter to James T. Fields on the same date, "Lucretius you shall have in good time" (Add. MSS. 55387(2), fol. 889); and on January 17, he informed Grove, "I sent off the Büchner to Tennyson last night. I hope you got Hopgoods written opinion which you might forward to Tennyson. I can't see the least difficulty in arranging matters so as to prevent the annoyance he anticipates" (Add. MSS. 55387(2), fol. 900).[12]


Page 152

An undated letter, written within the following week, indicates that Macmillan's and Grove's efforts had gone far toward eliminating the poet's reservations and that his wife was copying the MS for the press:

Farringford, Freshwater, Isle of Wight.
[January 17-23][13]
My dear Grove

The lawyer's opinion has not arrived but if it can be depended on there would seem no good reason why Lucretius should not appear in Macm:

In that case (I send you Ticknor & Fields letter) perhaps it would be as well not to let it appear before April, as that would accommodate the American publishers. Then it should be printed first & sent to me to correct, & afterwards dispatched to Boston. The firm has been immensely liberal to Dickens giving him £2000 for some slight essays in their publications & I suppose they would also give me something.

The passage in that foolish book of Büchners (& we have looked all over the book to find it) wouldnt do as a motto—
Yours always
A Tennyson/.

I think "flying by" is the best reading: fame goes clanging overhead—like a great bird—fainter and fainter, till the cry dies away.

My wife is copying Lucretius as there is only one MSS it is thought better not to trust that to the post./

There are a few slight errors in the copy—she says she does not think it will shock people.

Although there is no record in Tennyson's letter diary or in Emily Tennyson's journal, from a letter of January 18, Grove to Macmillan, the Laureate seems to have been at Grove's house on the afternoon of that date; and Grove added in a postscript, "hand a copy of Hopgoods letter to T. tonight" (Add. MSS. 54793, fol. 26). If Macmillan was able to do so, Tennyson should finally have been reassured, but the correspondence between publisher and editor indicates that after this date they were still awaiting a final clearance for "Lucretius" from the poet (Add. MSS. 55387(2), fol. 927). On Friday, January 24, Grove had in hand the MS that Emily had transcribed and, not wishing to delay further, reported to Macmillan, "No news from A. T. yet I shall send the MS. to the Printer on Monday" (Add. MSS. 54793, fol. 45v).

By Monday, however, Grove had received a letter from the poet's wife, and there was a new complication—Tennyson might wish to publish "Lucretius" in a volume of poems before the agreed-upon twelve months subsequent to its appearance in Macmillan's were out. Grove that day brought this letter personally to Macmillan, who at once wrote


Page 153
graciously to Mrs. Tennyson, saying that he would "not feel it any grievance" if the poem came out in a volume "two or even three months short of the year." He also told her that he and Grove had decided to hold "Lucretius" back until the May issue of the magazine, though "the temptation to let the world have that noble poem is very great. How grand it is!" Now that the February issue of Macmillan's was ready to appear, he enclosed a check for "Wages," which, he added, "we all like exceedingly" (Add. MSS. 55387(2), fol. 950).

With what seemed to be the final impediment removed, Grove, on Tuesday, committed the MS to the printer with the following instructions written on the covering leaf:

Take great care of this MS. | Set it up in Slip and ['send' deleted] pull one | proof only—which send with the | MS. to Mr. Grove—Lower Sydenham. | Size of type to be that of the ordinary | articles.

Jny 28/68[14]

Clay's compositors worked swiftly, and it is reasonable to assume that the printer returned the MS and the galley proof which Grove had ordered no later than Thursday. Certainly by the week end (as subsequent letters from Grove and Macmillan, February 2 and 3, verify) the poem was in type, and the MS was again in Grove's possession. Whether or not he sent the galley proof to Tennyson, or whether, if he did, it reached the poet before he left Farringford on Friday, January 31, for Haslemere, to fix the site of Aldworth, his new house, cannot be determined (Memoir, II, 52).

In any case, the very day that Grove dispatched the MS to Clay, he turned his attention to the best way to announce the poem's forthcoming publication—so as to build anticipation and sales—and proposed to Macmillan that they seek to get a notice into the Athenaeum or the Pall Mall Gazette. Enclosing a draft to that purpose, he invited the publisher's revisions (Add. MSS. 54793, fols. 42-42v). Macmillan preferred The Times as the appropriate vehicle, and Grove agreed on Thursday, January 30, to try to place the announcement through George Webbe Dasent, the assistant editor. In the same letter, however, he shared the disquieting information that Tennyson's friend and editorial collaborator in The Golden Treasury (1861), Francis Turner Palgrave, "thoroughly" disapproved "of Lucretius being published in a Magazine I hope to G—he wont ['put h' deleted] unsettle Tennysons mind. He's quite capable


Page 154
of it—" (Add. MSS. 54793, fol. 28).[15] Having acted vigorously by writing Palgrave to forestall this latest threat, Macmillan responded the following day, "I hope what I have said may keep him from troubling Tennyson. Payne is trouble enough" (Add. MSS. 55387(2), fol. 968).[16] By Saturday he could enclose Palgrave's response and say, "I think he will not do any harm now" (Add. MSS. 55387(2), fol. 974).

Then on Sunday, just as all looked propitious, the blow fell. Tennyson arrived in Town; and when Grove had a long talk with him, he was determined not to publish. The editor wrote Macmillan that night in great annoyance:

He WILL not let us have the Lucretius—Strahan's plaeads and Dallas's advertizments, added to Payne's and E. Lushingtons dissuasions have frightened him. I saw him today & found his mind fully made up. He is going to stop with Knowles till Wednesday morning, then to Woolner's—He said he would call on you. I have the MS. still in my possession. He said that he was quite ready to return the £50 [for "Wages"].

I confess to being very much vext, but I fear he is immoveable . . . (Add. MSS. 55793, fols. 44-44v).[17]

Macmillan was not a man to surrender his prize easily. Upon receiving Grove's message on Monday, February 3, he wrote immediately to Lushington in Edinburgh as follows:

. . . . . . . . . .

I am taking the opportunity of asking your kind countenance in a small personal matter. Mr Tennyson, as you remember gave us Sea Dreams for our Magazine, and more recently he has given us a short poem and promised a longer one—Lucretius. Indeed we actually have it in type. He now wishes to recal it; two motives chiefly operate with him as I understand: one, that other magazine publishers have dragged his name into vulgar publicity, the other that you disapprove of it. Now whatever other publishers have done, we have not been guilty in this respect, our advertisements have been unostentatious, not sensational. I think I might persuade him on this point to be content that we should have what he is *for a new issue [interlined][18] expecting in this to give us, and indeed has given us. But no objection stands in my opinion sufficiently weighty to warrant his withdrawal from this arrangement. Now I promise that there will be no vulgar advertisements, and remind you that our Magazine is in no sense a sensational magazine & never has been.


Page 155

I have heard rumours of business consideration. But Mr Tennyson knows that if I really thought it would hurt his interests I would not have accepted it. We are in a very awkward fix, if this really is withdrawn. You probably know that Mr Grove has just taken the Editorship; he has naturally been asking his friends what he had done, and they ask for it was he who obtained the poems. This withdrawal makes him look rather foolish. I am quite sure that neither he nor I would urge it for a moment did we feel that it could possibly hurt Mr Tennyson either in purse or in reputation. But the appearance of this poem in a Scholarly magazine like ours would I am sure in no way do him injury.

Forgive my putting this so pointedly to you. But I thought I might venture so far. I would prefer your acting or not acting on what I say without telling Mr Tennyson about it. But of course I have no serious objection, if you think it right to let him know that I have written you.

believe me dear Sir
very respectfully yours
A. Macmillan. (Add. MSS. 55387(2), fol. 978)

Lushington's prompt answer regrettably does not appear in the Macmillan archives, but its tenor can easily be guessed from the publisher's reply dated February 6:

I must thank you for your very kind letter, and also say that I did not ever suspect you of any unfriendly feeling towards us. Also that I very much sympathise in your objection to Mr Tennyson publishing in Magazines, and shall never urge or ask him to write another thing for us—and indeed I never did myself as he knows. What I meant to say was that we relying on his kind promise, had taken steps that would make his withdrawal extremely awkward for us, and I believe you did not feel the objection so strong as to call for such a step. I ventured to say also that the general tone & character of our magazine, made it more appropriately appear there than in others.

Pardon my again troubling you, but I don't want you to misunderstand my feeling.

believe me yours very respectfully
Alex. Macmillan. (Add. MSS. 55387(2), fol. 992)

With Lushington's opposition removed, Macmillan was able to mollify Tennyson. Since the poet remained in London until Sunday, February 9, before going on to Cambridge (Emily Tennyson's MS journal, Tennyson Research Centre), the publisher doubtless did so face to face, and by using much the same arguments and assurances that had placated Lushington. With publication of the poem finally certain, attention can now be turned to the textual development revealed in the MSS and the proofs and to subsequent correspondence pertaining to the latter.